Lightning Bolt - Pearl Jam
User Score
8.0

Generally favorable reviews- based on 78 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 68 out of 78
  2. Negative: 4 out of 78

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  1. Oct 15, 2013
    10
    This is everything a PJ fan could hope for. It is the perfect combination of harder rocking songs (Getaway, MYM, My Father's Son), mid tempo rockers (LB, Swallowed Whole), some extremely successful experiments for the band (Infallible, Pendulum, SBM) and beautiful ballads (Sirens, YM). They also make a foray into blues territory with LTRP which is entirely sucsessful at being the 'fun' song on the album. FD is probably the only below par song and even then, it's not a clunker. All in all, excellent album with at least 5 entries which stand up to their best output (Getaway, MFS, Infallible, Pendulum, Yellow Moon). Expand
  2. Oct 15, 2013
    8
    Pearl Jam is certainly an anomaly in the jungle of the music industry. They emerged as the forerunners in a movement where most seemingly weren’t destined for old bones and yet Pearl Jam has now endured for over 20 years. They’ve followed their own muse and called their own shots and still maintain a massive commercial appeal. They were initially lumped in with the genre of “grunge” mainly for their ethos, apparel, and geographic location. But while messianic figures of the trade like Kurt Cobain practiced what they preached in a somewhat self-sabotaging even self-eviscerating fashion, Pearl Jam were and still are at their core firmly entrenched in the heart of Classic Rock tradition. Their canon has emulated numerous Rock & Roll luminaries such as R.E.M., The Who, Bruce Springsteen, MC5, Led Zeppelin, and Neil Young (To whom this endeavor is dedicated to in the liner notes affectionately, “Dedicated to Uncle Neil.”) to name a few. It should come as no revelation then that sequenced with its various peaks and valleys, Pearl Jam’s 10th studio album Lightning Bolt unfurls like a Classic Rock record.

    Lightning Bolt explodes like a powder-keg with the one-two punch opening of “Getaway” and “Mind Your Manners” as the former strides in with a bold and brash Stones-y swagger and front man Eddie Vedder spits fire from his pulpit, “Everyone’s a critic looking back up the river/ Every boat is leaking in this town/ Everybody’s thinking that they’ll all be delivered/ Sitting in a box like lost and found.” The latter is leaner with buzz saw urgency paying homage to the visceral D.I.Y. spirit of the early Punk pioneers as guitarists Mike McCready and Stone Gossard play like dogs off a leash. The wormhole of “My Father’s Son” battles with demons (Now father you’re dead and gone/ And I’m finally free to be me/ Thanks for all your gifts/ For which I got no sympathy) before shifting to the break-of-dawn ballad “Sirens” acting as a soothing glow coating and calming the agitation and fury that had erupted from the first the three rockers. The title track is as monumental and continental-shifting as any piece of music they’ve put on record. The unbounded frontier sonics and “Given to Fly” fervor is galvanizing with Vedder sermonizing on the shoreline, “She comes on like stone/ But you don’t know where from she was thrown/ Like a burning meteor from miles high.” “Infallible” is a jarring cold sweat and “Pendulum” sounds like a drowning man’s final meditation, time passes and the sinking continues until life and light are barely a flicker. “Swallowed Whole” is a global trek with no limits or boundaries and “Let The Records Play” is a gritty guitar romp. An unabashed celebration exploring the medicinal and divine power of Rock & Roll, “When kingdom comes/ He puts his records on/ And with his blistered thumb hits play.” “Sleeping By Myself” is reworked from Vedder’s 2011 album Ukulele Songs augmented by a full band arrangement while Vedder’s ukulele still adds an aesthetic charm. “Future Days” closes as a sterling hymn as haunting as it is alluring. It’s a survivor’s psalm, free of guilt with its luminous prophecy faithfully believing in the journey ahead. This may be the most fragile Pearl Jam has ever sounded but sincerity prevails and it’s the perfect curtain call for a band coming to terms with its legacy as well as gauging its destiny.

    Lightning Bolt finds Pearl Jam perhaps surprisingly sailing gracefully into middle age embracing a roll as elderly statesmen in an increasingly uncertain industry, a conscience and moral compass of sorts. They’ve fallen in and out of favor with certain groups of fans and critics alike but the band continues to soldier on, indifferent of how they’re perceived in certain circles and confident in their virtues. This is a fusion of their raging youthful past with a genuine tenderness and wink of the eye that could only come from decades of experience and craftsmanship. Sure it may be considered “Dad Rock” by some, but what a righteous and mature statement this record is.
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  3. Oct 15, 2013
    1
    Once a great rock band, Pearl Jam has settled into a pattern of retreaded guitar riffs, middling songwriting and FM soft rock theatrics. There's really no reason to revisit this album; it's simply an expression of a band merely existing to pay the bills and to relive the glory days. But we'll always have the live shows and "Vitalogy."
  4. Oct 15, 2013
    10
    RS is kidding right!!!!!!!! hell on earth, does Pearl Jam is equal to Miley Cyrus now with score 3.5???????????? how that pearl jam is one of the greatest bands ever and all their albums are great I've never disappointed with any of their records and Lightning Bolt confirms PJ legacy.
  5. Oct 22, 2013
    10
    Extremely well balanced album and IMO a little better than Backspacer, which was more in-your-face but less balanced. This is a very good group effort i.e. all band members participating in a significant way. For the folks who are still longing to the Pearl Jam of the first 3-5 records, get to know the "grown up" Pearl Jam. Give it time and you'll learn to love it.
  6. Oct 15, 2013
    9
    HAUNTING, FAMILIAR

    I love Pearl Jam. I have since they first hit the scene, and I've been lucky enough to see them live seven times over the past twenty years. I'm way too biased to even pretend I can give you an objective view, but I can offer up the following observations of "Lightning Bolt":

    • The music on this album covers more range than I think I've ever heard from them. From
    their grungy roots to their emotional ballads to their experiments with jangly blues, new wave and psychedelia, everything is here.

    • At the same time, there is a cohesiveness to this album that I can't really recall on any Pearl Jam album since No Code. Whenever I start listening, I feel compelled to listen to the whole thing. That did not happen with Backspacer or the Avocado album. I think part of it is lyric-based. Everything on this album seems thematically connected, as there is an ever-present tension between inner emptiness and soul satisfaction. There is no Johnny Guitar or George Bush monologue to contend with. The stories that are told are more first-person and feel less contrived.

    • Ed is unafraid to let you into his heart, and that is a double-edged sword. If you buy into it and take his lyrics seriously, you will be richly rewarded. The band clearly is "all in" on Ed's style of songwriting at this point, and helps ensure that lyrics like the following, from "Sirens," pack the necessary emotional punch:

    "It's a fragile thing This life we lead If I think too much I can get over- whelmed by the grace By which we live our lives With death over our shoulders"

    If you aren't looking for your heart strings to be pulled, and you have had a problem with Ed's soft side in the past, then that issue will likely come up again for you in spades with this album. On the other hand, you'll probably still dig the way he wails on songs like "Infallible" and "Swallowed Whole," and "Mind Your Manners" and "Let the Records Play" will probably appeal to the pit mosher and barn stomper in you.

    • There is a "somber hopeful" paradox that absolutely enthralls me. It goes hand in hand with what seems to be a new emphasis on setting the mood. After front-loading the album with three pretty straightforward songs of angst, Pearl Jam really starts revealing that mood at the song "Sirens", which combines the dark imagery of ambulance sirens with transcendent lyrics of love. The music finds a way to echo this, which to me is somewhat of a revelation on this record. The new concert opener, "Pendulum" is also dark and beautiful. "Swallowed Whole" is an anthemic uplifting tune that has an unexpected, navel-gazing Pink Floyd keyboard drop in the middle. "Yellow Moon" has the kind of splintering tension that harkens back to "Release". And while I originally thought "Future Days" was overly sappy, the dark church organ that booms during the "I believe" lyric keeps the tension tight in that song as well.

    All in all, I think this is one of Pearl Jam's finest works, exploring new ground while deftly weaving together the skills the band has acquired over the years. All the songs feel fresh and beg to be played live, and in my opinion, there isn't any "filler", which cannot be said about every album by this band. Bravo!
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  7. Oct 19, 2013
    9
    After thinking Backspacer was their least enjoyable album (still very good though) I am very happy to place Lightning Bolt as Pearl Jams best since Yield in 1998. Best opener since Brain of J with Getaway. Mind your Manners and My Fathers Son As with a lot of their records the first songs hit you with such power and intensity that you need a typical PJ ballad and Sirens is it. On the very first listen it did not impress but soon enough it got under my skin. Title track is wonderful but its the next three tracks that are just amazing, Infallible, Pendulum and Swallowed Whole. Perhaps the most interesting trio in a row on any PJ record. Let the Music Play is the only one I am struggling with. Yellow Moon is pure Pearl Jam slow burning classic and Future Days is fine. The inclusion of Sleeping by Myself was strange, initially I thought it out of place but now, well it has fallen into place. So overall its a A-, a 9/10. Pearl Jam continue to be the greatest band of their generation. Expand
  8. Oct 19, 2013
    4
    The most generic rock record I've heard in a long time. Pearl Jam actually sound like a band with families, two cars and a mortgage. They're like a band of dads that get together in their board shorts on Sundays in Eddie's garage and dusts off their instruments.
  9. Dec 20, 2013
    4
    As a huge PJ-fan since 1994 it almost hurts to say this, but this album is really boring! The last time they had any fire in them was 2006's Avocado-album, but ever since they seem to have lost it.
    Backspacer was rescued a little bit thanks to 'The end' and 'Just breathe', but gems like that are absent on L.B..

    Don't get me wrong, they'll probably never make a really bad album. I'm
    just afraid that they're turning into a band that just releases an album to have an excuse to go on tour again.

    In the nineties they tried to reinvent themselves over and over because they didn't want to be one of those boring radio friendly rockbands. Now that's just what they're becoming.
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  10. BKM
    Oct 16, 2013
    7
    At this stage in there career, Pearl Jam really have nothing to prove to anyone and Lightning Bolt reflects that. It's not particularly dark or edgy and the band is more focused on their craft than with making any major statements. And that's ok. There's nothing wrong with a perfectly respectable rock record from a band that is transitioning smoothly to middle age.
  11. Oct 17, 2013
    2
    Not even close to some of Pearl Jam's best work

    A really lazy effort .Ten,Vs.,Vitalogy and even latter works like Riot Act are better then this album
  12. Oct 16, 2013
    9
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. 9 out of ten, maybe a touch below that but very close.
    Lightning Bolt is one of Pearl Jam's better albums overall. I was hoping for a strong showing (as I always am being a lifelong fan) and that's what I found. Admittedly I was not overly impressed with the first 2 tracks as they felt as though a throwback attempt to the glory days of Ten and VS. The rest of the album is excellent and easily up there with some of their best later work, Yield, Pearl Jam and Backspacer. Lightning Bolt and Swallowed Whole are a couple of crazy strong rocker tracks. Eddie Vedder's voice is commandingly strong throughout the entire album. Stone Gossard and Mike McCready and Jeff Ament still can bring on the sonic heavy stuff.
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  13. Oct 16, 2013
    8
    Still doesn't grab me yet as much as anything else they have done. Doesn't have that raw feel of the earlier stuff or the creative wanderings of the "avocado" album (which is my favorite of theirs). Maybe a few more listens will reel me in. Not a big fan of Backspacer and I would say this is a bit better than it. On a scale of 1 (worst album in history) to 100 (a classic) I would go with about an 83. Still a better album than the majority of music out now. Just not PJ at their best. Expand
  14. Oct 15, 2013
    9
    Their best album since Binaural. Sirens is gorgeous. MYM rocks!!. Pendulum is haunted. Infallible pure genius. Yellow Moon really shine in dark. LB continues PJ legacy. Keep going guys!!. Spin/RS review is a joke!!!
  15. Oct 18, 2013
    7
    A lot of people are saying things along the lines of "return to form" and "return to hard rock sound" but those are quite stupid statements to make. It's not often you'll find a weak track on any of their albums, Riot Act didn't hit the mark for me but I have to say this is another strong album. I don't see them as a band trying to prove themselves or even really experiment greatly. This album has "we write what we feel like writing" all over it, which is great. Having heard only Mind Your Manners, Lightning Bolt and Future Days before the release I thought the album would be much like the last two, a strong upbeat rock album, but much to my surprise it has a very mellow core. The band keep the interest with faster tempo hard hitters.

    All in all I think it's a great album.
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  16. Oct 23, 2013
    7
    the first 7 song are good some great then for me swallow hole is good but just reminds me of into the wild songs on steroids not sure about let the records play go back and forth on it sleeping with myself just don´t understand after four year why you would redo a song and doesn´t quite fit for me the back end of the record except yellow moon is good and maybe should have finished the record but i do like future days quite beautiful maybe could of follow sirens?

    overall like it but not sure it works as a whole album? but may grow on me the that late middle section
    would thought of the earth would have been good, sometime less is more.

    for me i love GETAWAY, PENDULUM, LIGHTING BOLT

    not sure if better than backspacer i really grow into that album, but i hope we get something like self titled album (avocado) as that for me best since vitalogy just seem like a complete album as was VS

    but hey eveyone has there own tastes
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  17. Feb 17, 2014
    8
    Great rock music. The songwriting is quite beautiful. And it's always a pleasure to hear Eddies voice again. Sure there some forgettable tracks here and there, but there's some really excellent stuff in this album. Getaway, Infallible, Pendulum, Sleeping By Myself, and Future Days are my favorite.
  18. Feb 15, 2014
    8
    http://bit.ly/1eZXaVj Lightning Bolt well makes up for the 4 year wait for a new album from the guys. Filled with classic edgy and fast tracks that Pearl Jam are known for and gentle acoustic songs that Vedder writes and performs so well. While at times the songwriting gets a bit boring and McCready starts showing off, it never takes away too much of the quality of this excellent album
  19. Jan 21, 2014
    7
    This band keeps coming back again and again pretty regularly, kudos to them for always bringing material to their dedicated fans. In the last 10 years, however, they've been producing albums which I consider to be inferior in originality. Lightning Bolt, though, is perhaps the best thing they've done since Binaural ( a very underestimated album ).

    The title of the album describes its
    own sound perfectly. It's sharp and edgy. Most tracks are also fast and rough, making Lightning Bolt one of the hardest PJ albums ever made.

    You would believe Eddie Vedder's voice would lose its power through all those years in activity, but it's still as strong as ever. His voice isn't considered as one of the best out there for no reason. He truly knows how to transfer his feelings to the people listening to him. Lightning Bolt might not be his best vocal album ( Vitalogy is a major voice album for Eddie ) but he's still standing up and proving his worth.

    Eddie's influence over the creation of songs in the last Pearl Jam albums have met with mixed feelings. He has improved as a musician in the last decade, but when it comes down to writing songs, Stone Gossard appears to me as the true genius behind Pearl Jam. Gossard has his own style which can be described as an "awkward The Who". Once again, the best songs in this album were worked on by Gossard. Mike McCready's contribution is also great in Lightning Bolt.

    Talking about Mike, his guitar seems muzzled in the latest albums and unfortunately, Lightning Bolt still won't let him play solos for an extended period of time. This guy is one of the best guitarists in the world, can't they give him more time so he can finally compete with his own self who blew us away in the early Pearl Jam years?

    This album is one of the shortest Pearl Jam ever made. I'm not sure I appreciate that fact although we sure had too much with other albums such as Riot Act which felt like some songs were actually B-Sides of older albums.

    There are old Pearl Jam influences in Lightning Bolt ( the usual Neil Young, Ramones, The Who ) but I felt like the guys paid attention to what the younger folks are doing. "Let The Records Play" is a clear response to The Black Keys.

    I think Pearl Jam should give more room to Boom Gaspar. His piano adds something more to the band. The guy's subtle work in Lightning Bolt ( and other recent albums ) should be praised.
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  20. Oct 17, 2013
    10
    Best album since a long time. Sirens, Infallible, Lightning Bolt, Pendulum, MYM above all are real gems bearing the classic PJ intensity but also new sounds and feelings. It might be the most exciting album since No Code
  21. Oct 15, 2013
    10
    This album will go greatly under-appreciated of course, as is the case with most of PJ's very solid catalog. But there's no doubt about it, this is probably the best PJ I've heard since Binaural, and maybe even Yield.
  22. Oct 21, 2013
    8
    It's not their finest, but the highlights are extremely bright. Getaway, Mind Your Manners, My Father's Son, Sirens, Lightning Bolt wow, all are new PJ classics and make up probably the best 5-song opening sequence to a PJ album since Vitalogy's Last Exit-Nothingman run.

    After that, things get a little bit more mixed: Infallible, Pendulum, and Swallowed Whole are slightly less
    excellent takes on approaches the band has taken before (although Swallowed Whole really seems like it has the potential to explode live); Let The Records Play has great guitar work and excellent, catchy vocal hooks but stylistically might not be some fans' cup of tea; Sleeping By Myself is pleasant but feels a bit out of place on this album energy-wise; Yellow Moon is a fantastic slow burner but to me should have been swapped with Swallowed Whole in the album order because of its tempo leading into Future Days, which is also a slower track but one of the most beautiful and emotionally resonant songs Pearl Jam has ever done. It really grabs you if you've found love in your life.

    At this point in their career, I don't think we could fairly expect these guys to do much better. Considering how many amazing musical ideas they've already brought us, the fact they still have this much music of this quality still left in them is something to be happy about.
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  23. Oct 23, 2013
    5
    I thought the album was going to have a lot more punch particularly after the "mind your manners" teaser While lightning bolt is in no way hard to listen to it certainly is no Ten or Verses I think it lacks the rawness and emotion that gave pearl jam their amazing talent for producing some of the most memorable songs of all time Maybe these middle aged guys have had years of therapy and become happy and well adjusted which in turn has had the follow through effect on there music Expand
  24. Oct 24, 2013
    10
    I would say for any true Pearl Jam fan Lightning bolt is a true expression of the bands continuous development... the guys in the band are no longer in their 20's they are all approaching the Big Five O.. is very obvious to me the PJs still has a lot more to give to their fans and I for one I'm blessed to have had the chance to see them live on several different occasions... keep up the good work guys much appreciated! Expand
  25. Feb 12, 2014
    4
    I disagree that this is everything a Pearl Jam fan could hope for. Specifically, a PJ fan could hope for growth, or a fan could hope for the same angst/cutting edge that made so many fans in the preceding decades. I feel this album is tired and the boys i once loved so much ('91-2002) are now just grasping at straws of what USED to rock. "Ooh, now a keyboard plays rhythm chords alongside the guitars, awesome." Hardly. If the best I can say is that half of these songs would've/could've been left on the Yield/Binaural cutting room floor, maybe that's where they should've stayed. I'm sure they're giving it their all, and more power to them, but i'm not interested. To me, this is Pearl Jam in name only. Expand
Metascore
73

Generally favorable reviews - based on 33 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 20 out of 33
  2. Negative: 0 out of 33
  1. Dec 19, 2013
    40
    The problem is that Pearl Jam at this point is just repeating itself--or others.
  2. Dec 18, 2013
    60
    Lightning Bolt is only more competent than Foo Fighters, Vedder and Co.'s rival for the planet's straightest rock band. [No. 105, p.57]
  3. Dec 4, 2013
    75
    Lightning Bolt finds Pearl Jam sounding more comfortable in its collective skin and with its collective influences than perhaps even before. [Nov-Dec 2013, p.92]